Summer temperatures, spring blooms, now if only we could go out and enjoy it!

Over the past month, many of the patients who have come to my office have been suffering from seasonal allergies. Symptoms vary from mild congestion and colorful boogers to nearly uncontrollable sneezing that disrupts meetings topped off with eye swelling and irritation. Early wildflower blooms are now being met by different tree pollens and grasses that can be pretty severe allergen culprits.

While we’re struggling with the pollen brought by our beautiful blooming greenery, we’re also starting to encounter the haze in the air from distant (for now) wildfires. Of course we’d all much rather deal with wildflowers than wildfires, but it looks like this spring and summer may bring us a bit of both.

With respiratory irritants such as pollen and particulate matter from fires, it is particularly important to work on reducing other irritants and protect your respiratory system. If you or a family member smoke, now is an excellent time to quit. Evaluate cleaning materials, household and personal fragrances, many of which contain harsh chemicals that are respiratory irritants. Keep your living and work spaces well-ventilated. Consider using an air filter fan (HEPA filter) to reduce the particulate and allergen content of your enclosed spaces.

While you’re working on reducing irritants found in your home and work, it is also important to work on your internal environment. Having a balanced, varied diet with adequate nutrients is an important foundation to help your body better weather external irritants such as pollution, smoke and pollen. It is generally helpful to increase the amount of colorful vegetables in your diet. As it is Pride month, June is an especially perfect time to include a rainbow of vegetables on your plate. These colorful veggies contain antioxidants and other compounds that may promote stabilization of the cells that tend to respond to allergens and result in the unpleasant sniffling symptoms. This is also definitely the time to pay attention to staying adequately hydrated. A key part of maintaining hydration for most people is choosing water or herbal tea rather than processed sugary beverages and alcohol.

If your symptoms are disrupting your daily life or you’d like to talk more about things you can incorporate to improve your health over this season, please call my office. I’d be happy to set up a time for a complimentary phone consultation to discuss your concerns.  The Overland Wellness approach is to use the most effective, least harmful, naturally-rooted treatments that get you feeling better and able to go outside and enjoy your active life! Specifically, my in-office treatments for allergies and respiratory health tend to include acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrients and targeted dietary/ lifestyle changes.

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I’ve been dreading the hazards of summer. The lingering snowfalls of winter turned into a blustering, stormy spring that provided green landscapes through July. This verdant beauty allowed me to maintain a naive sense of optimism regarding what summer would hold. I held out hope that the heat and smoke of last summer was a rare occurrence, wishing that clear skies, warm temperatures and living greenery could persist until we reach the cooling and drying effects of fall. Most of all, I dreamed of never seeing the hazy discoloration of smoke obscure our perfect mountainous horizon. My idyllic summer fantasy wilted a bit after waking up coughing in the dark this month. Unfortunately, both the sun and my lungs had to fight through a blanket of smoke to start the morning.

The smoky haze in the air appeared as if it came from a gritty post-apocalyptic movie. While no futuristic vehicles and villains have accompanied this change to our landscape, it is not without its own dangers. Wildfires, grass and debris burning can cause a significant impact on our air quality. While fire is a valuable part of the life cycle of certain plants, some habitats may not be as able to cope with fire. The effect of fire can also be very widespread. While some of the smoke has come from nearby fires, some of the diminished air quality and visible smoke is attributable to fires raging in other regions. The sometimes heated topics of water allocation, forestry management and land use regulation are outside of my area of expertise. However, I am highly familiar with the health consequences of fire season.

Some studies have confirmed the obvious, that wildfire smoke exposure increases respiratory illness and severity of respiratory symptoms. Others have even noted an association between smoke exposure and worsening mood. Some have made the startling observation that when it is smoky out, people may be more likely to die in general, not just from respiratory complaints. Further research is needed to determine who is particularly susceptible, what toxins or particulates are culpable for the worst consequences, and to determine what methods are the most effective at preventing and reversing the health hazards associated with smoke exposure. If such smoke exposure continues to become a regular part of our seasonal summer experience, both research and a practical plan to cope with such seasonal exposure is necessary.

For people with respiratory illnesses and sensitivities, a specific action plan tailored to their illness and treatment options should be developed with a physician. This is a time where having up to date prescriptions and appropriate dosing strategies for both daily and emergency medications could be life saving. Other parts of the plan can include reducing other exposures and evaluating what lifestyle and household modifications are necessary. Complementary strategies can include therapeutic nutrients, herbal medicines, acupuncture, and even dietary changes to better cope with the added strain of smoke exposure.

There are pharmaceutical as well as complementary strategies to manage respiratory illnesses and stay healthy during fire season. 

Now is a great time to schedule a check-up with your physician and to develop a comprehensive and holistic wellness plan with Dr. Overland.

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